Protester has no regrets about Y-12 break-in
10:55 PM, May 17, 2015
7:12 AM, May 18, 2015
Greg Boertje-Obed is greeted by Libby and Erik Johnson as he arrives in Knoxville by bus on Sunday after being let out of Leavenworth federal prison in Kansas. Greg Boertje-Obed, along with Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli, were released from federal prison over the weekend following last week’s appeals court ruling that overturned their conviction on sabotage charges for the July 28, 2012, break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)
Greg Boertje-Obed, left, is picked up at the Greyhound bus station by Libby and Erik Johnson on Sunday. Greg Boertje-Obed, along with Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli, were released from federal prison over the weekend after an appeals court overturned their conviction on sabotage charges for the July 28, 2012 break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)
Greg Boertje-Obed turns 60 years old Monday, and the best birthday gift he got was his freedom.Looking thin and a bit tired and sporting a new pair of jeans courtesy of the federal prison system, Boertje-Obed arrived in Knoxville shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday following a 20-hour bus ride from Kansas — where the spent the last 14 months serving time in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.
He was greeted at the Greyhound Bus Station by friends and well-wishing peace activists.
Boertje-Obed and the other two Plowshares protesters who broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant on July 28, 2012 — Sister Megan Rice, 85, and Michael Walli, 67 — were released from federal prison over the weekend.
Their release followed a ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that reversed their conviction on sabotage charges. Because they likely have already served more time than required for their other conviction on a felony count of damaging government property, the court approved an “emergency motion” for their release pending a decision by the U.S. government on whether to appeal the sabotage reversal.
Boertje-Obed said he was very happy and thankful to the attorneys “who demonstrated a great genius” in convincing two of the three appeals court judges to overturn the conviction on sabotage — the most serious of the charges that equated the anti-nuclear activists with terrorists.
Was the break-in at Y-12, where the protesters spray-painted messages on the storehouse for bomb-grade uranium and splashed the facility with human blood, worth being incarcerated for two years?
“Oh, definitely,” he said. “I believe a lot of good came from this action and from our being in jail also.”
Boertje-Obed is a bit puzzled as to why he ended up in Knoxville following his release from Leavenworth. When prison officials talked to him about his court-ordered release, he told them he wanted to go to Duluth, Minn., where his wife, Michele Naar-Obed, lives. That seemed to be the plan, but he was later given a bus ticket to Knoxville — where he and the others were tried in U.S. District Court in 2013.
He said the plan is for him to meet with a probation officer on Monday and hopefully make arrangements to get to Duluth.
Rice, who served time at a federal prison in Brooklyn, N.Y., reportedly was spending time with family following her release, and Walli, who’s been incarcerated in Pennsylvania, is now with friends in Washington, D.C.
Boertje-Obed said the three protesters were not allowed to communicate with each other over the past 14 months, despite repeated efforts.
The military veteran said he has lost count of how much time he has spent behind bars for his protests against nuclear weapons, but he said the Y-12 break-in was his sixth Plowshares action. He said he wasn’t sure if there would be a seventh.
When people ask if he’s willing to risk increasingly long jail terms for his actions, he said he points to Rice as an example.
“She was 82 when she did that (Y-12) action,” he said. “I’m almost 60, so I have many years left.”
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